Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kan-Jam Charlie!

A year at Project Coach can pass you by in an instant. It hardly seems believable that it's more than 12 months since Don, Sam, and I took a trip over to Western New England College to meet with Professor Curt Hamakawa and his Sports Management and Business class on a sunny late fall day.

The visit proceeded much as we had expected; we presented Project Coach; people asked questions; some were interested; some weren't. What we hadn't bargained for was meeting two fascinating characters who would become ingrained in the PC mission for the next year.

Curt's story alone is worth a wealth of blog posts. A much traveled and highly regarded veteran of the US Olympic Committee, who had landed in Western Mass via a multitude of places to pursue his dream of working in higher education. A humble guy who's down-to-earth nature was immediately engaging and endearing. And someone who saw in Project Coach a program that spoke to his own outlook on life and connecting in a meaningful way to his academic pursuits. This chance meeting alone would have made the trip more than worthwhile.

And yet that wasn't all. At the end of the presentation, we passed around the contact sheet for follow up inquiries about the program. A healthy number of signatures, more questions, and some likely emails in the pipeline. And then there was Sophomore student Charles Drago. Who had questions. Lots of questions. Great questions. That guy at the front of the line who wanted to know more. Who seemed like he was REALLY interested. And so we eventually parted from an empty room, save for the three of us. And Charlie. Who still had more questions.

Fast forward all of 24 hours, and the three of us all have an email from this guy Charlie asking what he can do? When can he come down and visit the program? How can he help us? "He'll lose interest when finals hit", we thought. "He'll have had enough when he sees the 'organized chaos' we live in", we said. Not this guy. Not Charlie.

And so a year has passed. And countless PC visits, two big fundraisers organized, and $500+ later, Charlie has become an integral part of the Project Coach team. We've come to love the guy not just for the tremendous work he's done on behalf of Project Coach, but for his personal qualities too; the same humility that drew us to Curt in the first place, the ability to blend in and get to know our kids, and the initiative and motivation that's been such a wonderful asset to our program.

Nothing could have optimized Charlie's enthusiasm more than this past Friday, when along with his fellow WNEC students, he laid on an evening of high-octane fun at the 2nd Annual Kan-Jam fundraiser. In a night that pitted Smith ultimate frisbee players against WNEC's finest (with veteran disc-guru Sam Intrator also making a long awaited comeback), the real winners were Charlie and Project Coach. Or rather Project Coach and Charlie. That's the way he'd want it.

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